By Brad Carroll
The first four of the final eight home games in the regular season was all about one future Hall of Fame player and another who is the Yankees future on the mound. Derek Jeter and Masahiro Tanaka were the highlights of the series against Toronto, with the former getting his rightful hero's goodbye, while the latter made an important start in his quest to get completely healthy for next season.
Jeter sure knows how to grab hold of the moment and excel in it like few others in baseball history. In the four games against the Blue Jays, to begin his final homestand, the Yankees captain had eight total hits, two in each game. He had two doubles, a home run and three RBI. This comes on the heels of Jeter going 0-for-28, the second worst stretch of his career. He broke that hitless streak in the series finale against Tampa, and has been on fire since.
Jeter will play the final four games of his Yankees career at home starting Monday night against the Orioles. From there, the Yankees play three games in Boston.
Tanaka pitched for the first time in more than two months Sunday afternoon, and picked up right where he left off. He allowed one run on five hits in 5.1 innings, striking out four and walking none. Tanaka got the victory to improve to 13-4 on the season.
The best part about Tanaka's start was he said he didn't feel any pain after the outing, meaning there was no setbacks with the injury, which was everyone's biggest concern.
The victory Sunday gave the Yankees four wins in their last five games to barely stay in the American League wild card hunt. With seven to play, the Yankees trail the Kansas City Royals by 4.5 games for the second wild card spot. They also have to get past the Mariners (1.5 games back of Kansas City) and Indians (3.5 back).
The Royals and Indians play a three-game series starting Monday night in Cleveland. Before the first game, however, the Indians and Royals will complete a suspended game from Aug. 31 with the Indians leading 4-2 in the bottom of the 10th. If the Indians hold, the Royals would lead the second wild card by one game over the Mariners, three games over the Indians and four over the Yankees.
The Yankees play four against the Orioles and the Mariners take on the Blue Jays for four games, both starting Monday night. Not including the suspended game, each team has seven games remaining, except for Cleveland, which has six.
But before we get to Monday's action around baseball, let's take a look back at the week that was for the Yankees, with those who stood out best, and those who didn't, with our 3 Up and 3 Down feature.
Derek Jeter: To say Jeter rises to the occasion would be a severe understatement. To start his final homestand, Jeter went 8-for-15 with two doubles, a home run and three RBI in four games against Toronto. The only question mark surrounding Jeter now is whether or not he will end his career when the Yankees play their final game at the Stadium, or play the final three games in Boston as well. Either way, make sure not to miss the Yankee Stadium finale Thursday night.
Masahiro Tanaka: The plan to go through rehabilitation instead of having Tanaka undergo Tommy John surgery seemingly has worked out. Tanaka beat the Blue Jays in his return to the mound Sunday afternoon, allowing just one run in 5.1 innings. He felt no pain after the start, which is great news. If Tanaka and the Yankees chose to undergo Tommy John surgery, he could have missed all of next season as well. So his start Sunday was a vital step toward the Yankees success in 2015.
Shane Greene: The Yankees young pitcher has allowed a total of two earned runs over his last three starts, winning once, losing once and taking a no-decision. Against Toronto Thursday, Greene allowed no runs and just three hits in 6.1 innings during an eventual 3-2 victory. In his last two starts, totaling 12 innings, Greene has 15 strikeouts. With all the injuries the Yankees have suffered to their starting rotation, it's guys like Greene that have kept this season from being completely lost.
Chris Capuano: The Yankees were leading 2-1 in the sixth inning Saturday when Capuano lost his way on the mound, allowing three runs to put the Blue Jays in front. Toronto went on to win 6-2, the only game the Yankees dropped in the four-game series. In that fateful sixth, Capuano allowed a walk, infield single, a ground rule double to score two runs, and a sacrifice fly to plate another run. If the Yankees hold on to win that game they would be just 3.5 back of the second wild card right now.
Mark Teixeira: The giant waste of money could have his season shut down early because of a wrist injury. Teixeira didn't play Sunday. In his five games this week, Teixeira went 3-for-16 (.188) with no extra base hits and no RBI. He's batting a pitiful .216 this season. He's not going anywhere, as he'll be on the team next season. And the season after that. He makes $22.5 million a year. Let that sink it.
Carlos Beltan: He'll likely undergo elbow surgery in the offseason, as the Yankees, for some reason, want to have Beltran available in the final week of the season. I don't know the reason, as Beltran has been terrible all season. He went 1-for-8 in the two games he played this week and is batting just .233 on the season. He's another player the Yankees are stuck with for two more years, which is just as unbelievable as it was when the team signed him for three years during the offseason.